Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall left the comfort of River Cottage behind and went on a journey to find out what was really going on at the industrial end of our fisheries. What he found was that things are not just bad… they’re mad. Hugh’s Fish Fight, in association with Channel 4, set sail in January 2011 to campaign against the waste of fish caused by the insane Discards Policy. Half the fish caught in the North Sea are being thrown back into the sea, dead, because of crazy EU laws.
Hugh’s “Discards Campaign” condemns the throwing away of perfectly edible fish to avoid breaching limits. The response from the UK public was incredible. Over 850,000 people have now signed the Fish Fight petition, and so many people emailed their MPs to protest about discards that they forced a debate in the Houses of Parliament.
The campaign had a huge impact across Europe too, as Hugh found allies to lead the Fish Fight in Spain, France, Germany and Poland – and, earlier this month, MEPs overwhelmingly backed the biggest-ever Common Fisheries Policy reforms, crucially including an end to “discards”. For species such as mackerel, the ban will come in from next year and there will be a gradual introduction from 2016 to 2019 for species including North Sea cod. The changes would also put an end to the annual wrangling over fishing quotas, which campaigners say leads to overfishing rather than protecting stocks.
In January 2013, Fish Fight also launched the “Save Our Seas” campaign to get the government to commit to various Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) around the UK, designed to protect important habitats, but also to minimise the impact on fishing and other activities.
The government had previously asked scientists, fishermen and everyone else who uses our seas to work together to select sites for the MCZs. These groups came up with 127 sites, and the government’s experts said that these were all needed in order to create a network of sites good enough to secure the health of our seas. The whole process has taken over 3 years so far, cost millions of pounds, and involved thousands of people.
In December 2012, the government announced it plans to protect 31 of the 127 MCZs in 2013. They haven’t given a timetable for when they will look at the rest of them. But they’ve opened a consultation, so we all have a chance to tell the government what we think – see here.
Marine Conservation Zones will protect our seabeds from the most damaging forms of fishing, help marine life and fish stocks recover, and make life better for sustainable fishermen. Take a look at the video below to see the sort of destruction that’s currently being caused:
For more information on MCZs and to get involved see here.
Additionally, another campaign sees Fish Fight asking UK supermarkets, “What are your prawns eating?”. In Channel 4’s “Hugh’s Fish Fight: Save Our Seas”, Feb 28 2013, Hugh travelled to Thailand to find out what goes into the feed of our King Prawns.
Most of the prawns we eat in the UK are farmed in ponds and are fed on protein called “trashfish” – which often consists of juvenile fish, which could feed many more people and replenish fish stocks, if given the chance to grow and breed.
Hugh wants British supermarkets to use their buying power in Thailand to help change how companies source their fish. The 3 supermarkets that do business with the biggest prawn company – and prawn feed manufacturer – in Thailand are Tesco, Morrisons and Co-op.
Take a look at the Fish Fight website to find out more.
And, for an easy guide to the fish to eat, and those to avoid, download Hugh’s free Fish Fight App, or PDF guide, with fish recipe ideas.
Watch Hugh’s Fish Fight: Save Our Seas, Channel 4.
For more information on sustainable fishing methods and responsible sourcing techniques, see the Seafish website. Seafish was founded in 1981 by an Act of Parliament and supports all sectors of the seafood industry.